In the midst of the pandemic, retail has suffered immensely. More people are shopping online and stores are constantly forced to reinvent their operational structures to abide by government-mandated guidelines to operate safely. To address this problem, The Downtown Denver Partnership (Partnership) is collaborating with Denver Economic Development & Opportunity (DEDO) to “reimagine downtown, one storefront at a time” through the Popup Denver retail activation program.
The project’s pilot phase provides an opportunity for five vacant spaces in Upper Downtown to be transformed into retail storefronts. Entrepreneurs selected by a committee of 16th Street Mall business owners and leadership from the Partnership and DEDO will receive $20,000 to put towards interior renovation/design, merchandising and other operational costs.
The program is unique because the selected entrepreneurs will not pay any base rent for the tenure of their popup. Additionally, the selection committee plans to prioritize local entrepreneurs and diverse offerings in the selection process.
While 16th Street Mall was once a major tourist hot-spot, it is now known by locals as a crime-ridden strip. Denverites often avoid the area as a majority of the stores are national chains and the mall itself is not ideal compared to shopping centers in Cherry Creek and storefronts in various Denver neighborhoods like RiNo and the Highlands.
As reported by CBS, crime in the area continues to increase to the point where the owner of Sportsfans, Derek Friedman, instituted a tax on his products to offset the costs of crime at his 16th Street Mall storefront. He considers this 1% extra charge on purchases a “Denver Crime Spike Fee,” an action that is meant to make up for the losses due to crime in the area. The crime has gotten so bad that a majority of Friedman’s female employees refuse to work at the 16th Street Mall location in fear of their safety.
The purpose of Popup Denver is to not only provide opportunities for local entrepreneurs but to revitalize 16th Street Mall by introducing retail stores that better represent Denver’s culture. The hope is that this area will improve in the process.
Popup Denver strives to establish a means for local entrepreneurs to gain traction in the community and to eventually establish a long-term space in the area. The Partnership and DEDO hope that the project will rejuvenate 16th Street Mall by representing Denver businesses and establishing a community connection in the process.
16th Street Mall is currently home to a variety of businesses, although many are chains or corporate-owned entities. As Denver continues to grow and flourish, the project extends the importance of establishing a space for local business opportunities to define the city’s retail atmosphere.
“It is with this type of business innovation and inclusivity that we’ve navigated the pandemic in Denver,” said Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock, “We are excited to support such a meaningful program that not only nurtures our incredible entrepreneurs but has the potential to be a tipping point to a 16th Street Mall that looks and feels more like the Denver we all know and love.”
Applications to get involved are available until Friday, March 4, 2022 on the Popup Denver website.